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  • Traditional Dosa
    South Indian Crepe

    TOOLS: You’ll need 2 large mixing bowls, a blender, a damp dish towel or paper towel, a cast-iron frying pan or griddle, a dry paper towel, a small spoon, a ladle, a wide spatula, and a tray lined with paper towels.
    NOTE: This batter will last for 3 days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it and store it for as long as 3 months.
    TRY THIS! Experiment by substituting brown rice, increasing the amount of dal used or using other beans or lentils.

    Dosa is one of the tastiest and healthiest breads around. A mainstay of the South Indian diet, this savory “crepe” is traditionally made from white rice and skinned urad dal and is often eaten for breakfast or brunch. Nonetheless, feel free to have dosai for dinner or as a snack. Dosai have become my go-to gluten-free wrap as I’ve started to cut out the gluten in my diet. I also like to use brown rice instead of white, and it works just fine.

    • 3 cups /560 g uncooked white or brown basmati rice
    • 1 cup /210 g duhli urad dal (whole or split black dal without skin), picked over
    • 2 tablespoons chana dal (split and skinned gram or black chickpea), picked over
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    • Water, to cover
    • 3 cups /710 mL room-temperature water
    • ½ cup /80 g cooked white or brown basmati rice
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • Vegetable oil, for frying, set aside in a small bowl
    • End of a raw onion, for prepping pan
    • Spiced potatoes and Sambhar, for serving (optional)
    1. In a large mixing bowl, rinse the uncooked rice, urad and chana dals, and fenugreek seeds together. Add enough fresh water to cover the ingredients and set aside to soak at room temperature for 6 hours to overnight.
    2. Drain the mixture and discard the water. Place the mixture in a blender with the room-temperature water and process. As the blender runs, slowly add the cooked rice. Continue blending until the batter is completely smooth. Depending on the size of the blender, you may need to do this in 2 batches, and you may need a little more water to ensure that the batter is smooth.
    3. Transfer the batter to a separate large mixing bowl. Add the salt and stir using your hands. Some say stirring the batter with your warm hands, rather than a cold metallic spoon, helps to trigger the fermentation process, which is key to a successful dosa batter. Use a large bowl because the batter will expand as it ferments.
    4. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel or paper towel and set aside in a warm, dry place for 6 hours to overnight to allow the batter to ferment. If you live in a cold climate, heat the oven to 200°F / 90°C for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven, wait 10 minutes, and then place the covered bowl in the oven for the fermentation process. You’ll end up with a thin batter that is slightly bubbly, frothy, and sour. Perfect!
    5. Warm a cast-iron frying pan or griddle over medium–high heat. Place 1 teaspoon of the oil in the pan and spread it out with a paper towel (you can use cooking spray if you prefer). The key here is to be sure not to use too much oil, which can make the batter soggy when you pour it in the pan. Also, make sure the pan isn’t too hot when you pour the batter in, or it will stick and get clumpy.
    6. Once the pan is hot, stick a fork into the uncut, rounded end of the onion. Holding the fork handle, rub the flat side of the onion back and forth across the pan. The combination of the heat, the onion juices, and the oil will help prevent the dosai from sticking. Keep the onion with the inserted fork handy to use again between dosai. This step is not necessary, but it does work. Keep the small bowl of oil and a small spoon on the side to use later.
    7. Using a ladle, pour ½ cup / 60 mL of the batter into the center of the pan. Using the back of the ladle, spread the batter in a circular, clockwise motion from the center toward the outside of the pan, creating a thin, round, 9-inch / 13-cm crepe. Use slightly less batter if you want it to be thinner and crispier. I often use a wide spatula to spread the mixture out and make it as thin as possible around the edges, the way they do in the restaurants.
    8. Using the small spoon, pour a thin stream of oil from the small bowl in a circle around the outside edge of the batter. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on 1 side, until lightly browned and pulled away from the side of the pan. Turn the dosa over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the second side, pressing down on the center of the dosa with a spatula to make sure the center cooks through. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
    9. Repeat Steps 7 and 8 until all the remaining batter has been cooked. Remove from the heat. After you make every 2 to 3 dosai, rub the pan down with the onion as described in Step 6.
    10. Serve the dosai traditionally, layered with spiced potatoes and a side of Sambhar, or simply use as a gluten-free substitute for bread. You can also stack the dosai, let them cool, and wrap them first in a dish cloth and then tightly wrap with aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.*

    *If you are storing the dosai, reheat them before serving by warming them on the stovetop in a dry cast-iron pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes.

Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

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